All signs point to an epic race this Saturday here at the Tennessee River Gorge. The 2017 edition of the Chattajack has a last minute entry that will undoubtedly make an impact--weather. Colder temperatures, rain and wind are forecast for race day and will likely create difficulties in what is essentially already a taxing war of attrition.
So given the conditions, who will be the top contenders on Saturday?
Erik Borgnes--Two-time winner and holder of the fastest overall time. Borgnes is the man to beat with all eyes on him for the win.
Eric Mims--Top regional paddler and also a two-time Cjack winner. Excellent in big water.
Terry Smith--Chattanooga native- flatwater and Wildwater paddler with international experience.
Scott Cummins--Top Regional paddler with long history in the sport.
Cory Hall--Chattanooga native and multisport elite.
Barrett Phifer--Fast Paddler from the panhandle
The real battles will likely take place between first and third place. Eric Mims and Erik Borgnes will likely be the two vying for the top spot. Although Borgnes bested Mim’s in their previous meeting, Mims cannot be counted out. This will be a down to the wire affair that will likely be decided in the final miles.
Third place will be where the next highly contested action will take place. Terry Smith and Scott Cummins will be contenders for the third position. Both of these guys are from the old school. They’ve honed their tactics and know how to show up ready for race day. Smith is primarily a shorter distance specialist but can adapt to long distance if he’s put his work in. Cummins has a great long game and is astute tactically. He has a good read and will be waiting for the right opportunity to present itself.
Several others are capable of stepping up for the steal. The conditions may play into opportunities for them on game day.
Kata Dismukes--undisputed four-time winner. She has made the Chattjack hers and has not lost here yet. Background in K1 from Hungary. Jumped on a ski a few years back and has been tearing up all over the Southeast ever since.
Pam Boteler--decorated domestic sprint canoe paddler, Boteler will be taking part in her first Chattajack this year. Pam is an incredibly powerful paddler and will pose a formidable threat to usurp the dynasty. Lest we forget Pam has Vegan superpowers. See her extensive palmares here: http://www.surfskinews.com/second-blog/2015/11/15/pam-boteler
Lindsey O’Shea-- Beloved Georgia paddler O’Shea is always near or at the front of any race she enters. But this year, the kitten’s claws are out. Lindsey has found a craft that has fit her like hand-in-glove, and she has shown an immediate improvement. She’s put the miles in and is ready play spoiler in Tennessee this weekend.
Another highly competitive and entertaining set of competitors. The ladies will be moving fast for sure this year. Like the men, several others are ready to spoil and picking between these three is anyone’s guess. For that reason we all win as these ladies are sure to put on a highly competitive show.
For the first time ever Men’s Kayak participants have surpassed surfski, making the competition fierce. Add conditions and wind and we’re bound to see times commensurate with the surfski crowd. Many in this year’s lot will be sporting faster boats as well. True SS20 boats will showing up such as the Think Zen and the Epic V8 Pro. The lines will get blurry.
Names to watch out for:
Phil Capel--Long-Time paddler and previous year winner will likely be paddling a very fast and light Westside EFT. Capel is always a threat.
Richard Carter--One of the fastest masters in the region Carter will be a top pick for the win.
Todd Hyatt--Always a top regional finisher. Leads the standings in the Southeast Series. On the podium last year.
Tom Popp--Chattanooga native who has participated in EVERY Chattajack thus far. Always on the podium.
Jerry Gillissen--Michigan paddler just off the podium last year.
Mark Poole--another Southeast series stalwart. If he’s been training, he’ll be near the top.
Largest female list ever! Love seeing the women turning things up. Kayak category is often the “farm leagues” for surfski, which essentially means that seeing higher numbers here likely indicates bigger numbers in the surfski division down the road. Very competitive field here as well. It’s gonna be interesting. Top Picks:
Myrlene Marsa--Course record holder and always near the front of the race. Myrlene will be trying her hands at the new Think Zen. Should be a tough combination to beat.
Camille Richards--Punching in with some solid results over near the Gulf side of things Richards is a clear threat for overall.
Kimberly Schulte--Last year’s winner has been busy this year. She’ll be strong and ready to retain her crown come race day.
Haley Popp--former winner with the additional third place last year, Haley will be game-on Saturday.
Nancy Packard--Nancy has an indomitable will and is always out there putting in the work. She’s relatively new to the game, but brings lots of steely determination to the fray.
Sub 4 Hour Mark Broken?
Will the elusive 4 hour mark be broken? In singles, I don’t think so. Conditions will likely slow the action down enough to make getting near the four hour mark hard enough. One potential possibility will be if the flow of the river is up. As of right now it is not, however, overnight a cold snap will follow the front that will be moving through. This may encourage TVA to release more water through the Chickamauga Dam, subsequently increasing flow. For those unfamiliar with the challenge of going under 4 hours, the Tennessee River is a very slow flowing, large river. Although the website states the race distance is 31 miles, most have found their final numbers to be well above 32 miles. Add all this together and you have a difficult task if you want to go sub-4. For perspective: the only person to do it so far was Sean Rice in his build-up to Molokai last year. Sean finished with a time of 3:50 and some change--unofficial of course.
Doubles however, will be a different story. This year we have a few doubles competitors that will provide a clear and present threat to clearing 4 hours and in their case--conditions be damned!
The two teams of Bruce Poacher and Nate Humberston and Morgan House and Michael Herrin are poised to be the first non-aliens to crack through.
This is going to be an interesting race. Check back for finishing results tomorrow to see how events play out.
So who ya got?